Best Shoulder Workout Routine (The Ultimate Training for Huge Delts)

This is quite simply the ultimate shoulder workout routine for adding slabs of muscle and building insane strength.  A good set of delts and traps will do wonders for your physique.

Not only will they make you look like an extremely strong and powerful athlete, but due to adding extra width to your body, they will naturally help make your waist look smaller.

The shoulder routine you are about to discover is based around HIT (High-Intensity Training) or as I like to call it, “high-intensity weight training”.  This just stops anyone confusing it with HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training).

This type of weight training is hard, not just physically, but mentally as well.

If you have a training partner, it will make it so much easier to push yourself to the absolute limit that this routine takes you to.  However, do not despair if you don’t, you will just have to have a razor-like focus and determination in order to push yourself to the maximum.

I love training like this throughout different phases of the year and have yielded some of my greatest results from doing so.  However, I have to add HIT is not a new and unique concept, and has been used by some of the most successful bodybuilders throughout the years.  Mike Mentzer and Dorian Yates are the two that really stand out for popularising this style of training.

Although their routines were different both used and followed exactly the same principles of HIT to build their phenomenal physiques.

I personally train much closer to how Dorian trains when using HIT.

Although I didn’t design or come up with the whole idea of HIT, I have with experience adapted the training to suit both beginners and advance weight lifters.

Within this article, you will find both a beginners shoulder workout routine and an advanced one.

It’s now time to get into the good stuff.


HIT Shoulder Workout Routine (The Set-Up)

Everything you learn in this routine can be used across all your other body parts.  However, if you have a routine you are currently following, but feel your shoulders are lacking and need that extra push, then you can just slot this shoulder routine in.

You can also obviously use this type of training on every muscle group and follow a whole weekly HIT routine.

Let’s have a look at all the different elements that make up this shoulder workout routine.

How Many Exercises?

  • You will be doing 4 different exercises

How Many Sets?

  • You will be doing 2 warm-up sets on most exercises (one light to moderate set and one moderate to heavy set)
  • You will be doing one work set per exercise using advanced overload techniques.

How Many Reps Per Set?

  • You will complete 12 reps per warm-up set
  • Work sets will vary.  Some will be in the 6 to 8 rep range and some in the 10 to 12 rep range

How Will Each Rep Be Performed?

  • Aim to perform each repetition in good form
  • You will do the concentric part of the movement as explosive as possible
  • Once the weight is at the top of the movement, you will then slowly lower the weight back down for a count of 3 to 4 seconds

How Much Rest Between Sets and Exercises

  • Aim to have just 1 minute of rest between all sets and exercises

How Often Should You Train Your Shoulders?

  • You will only train your shoulders once a week

What Are The Advanced Muscle Overload Techniques

Bodybuilder loading up a barbell with weight plates

I can imagine some of you are thinking.  “only one work set per exercises.  This surely can’t be enough”  All I can say in answer to this, is if you implement these advanced overload techniques properly, one set is all you will need and all your body will be able to actually benefit from.

Do not make the mistake of trying to add extra work sets in.  If you really feel you can or want to, then it simply means you didn’t push yourself hard enough.

Adding more volume could lead to overtraining and injury in the future.  I don’t care what some gym rats say, overtraining is a thing and it can creep up on you fast.  You need to train insanely hard but also smart.

Natural weight lifters are at way more risk of overtraining than the drug-enhanced user, but even they can still experience it if they push their bodies and nervous system way past its limits.

Let’s take a look at the advanced overload techniques below.  Some you may have already heard of and used.  But this program will make sure you are using them effectively.

Drop Sets

This is probably the most common technique used in the gym.  The problem is, it’s always massively overused in a training session.  If you really are using this technique right and pushing yourself hard with it, then doing it set after set after set will be of zero benefit to you.  In fact, it will most probably lead to having a negative effect on your body.

By the way, when I say it is often overused,  I am talking about people who I have seen use it on nearly every set they do in the session

  • Drop sets are best used on machines as they allow you to quickly change the weight.
  • Once you reach positive failure (the point in which you can no longer do a full rep by yourself) quickly drop the weight and start pushing out more reps until you reach positive failure again.
  • You don’t have to stop at one drop set on that exercise.  However, I would advise only doing a maximum of 3 drops.

Rest/Pause

  • A simple overload technique that can be done on free weights and machines making it very versatile.
  • Once you can no longer complete a rep on your own (reaching positive failure) put the weights down and rest for roughly 15 seconds.
  • Pick the weights back up and start doing more reps until you reach positive failure again.
  • I would advise doing no more than 3 rest/pause sets on any particular exercise.  You will most probably be down to just 1 or 2 reps by the 3rd one anyway.

Partial Reps

There is not too much to say about this advanced overload technique.  Most people will naturally do partial reps anyway once they can no longer push out a full rep.

It really is that simple, once you can no longer achieve full range of motion, you keep trying to move the weight as much as you can regardless of how big the range of motion is.

Forced Reps

This advanced overload technique can only be done when a training partner or someone spotting you is present.

  • Once you can no longer complete a rep with the full range of motion, your training partner will help you lift the weight back to the top before you slowly lower it back down on your own
  • If done correctly they should not be lifting the weight for you.  They will put just enough effort in so that the weight keeps moving however slow it might be.  This will force you to really keep pushing yourself in order to keep moving the weight.

Extra Negative Reps

Like forced reps, you will need a training partner or a spotter for this technique.

  • Once you can no longer move the weight yourself, your training partner will help take the weight back to the top.  You will then start to lower the weight back down as slow as possible.
  • The difference between these and forced reps is, your partner will try to help get the weight back to the top as quickly as possible meaning there will be minimal effort from you needed.

Exercise Selection

If I m brutally honest, HIT can be used with absolutely any exercises. However, my advice to you is to stick to the most tried and tested ones.

These are the exercises that all bodybuilders have used since the beginning of time, and variations of them.

You will never see Arnold Schwarzenegger or Dorian Yates holding up a weight plate and pretending they are steering a car with it.  And yup this is an actual thing I see quite often now from the new age Instagram fitness models.

Sticking to the basics will give you the best opportunity to build muscle.

Let’s take a look at some of them.

Military Press (standing or seated)

Variations – Seated using a barbell, Smith machine press, any shoulder press machine

Dumbbell Shoulder Press (Seated Or Standing)

Lateral Raises

Variations – Can be done seated, Any lateral raise machine, cable machine lateral raises

Reverse flyes (For Your Rear Delts)

Variations – Check out this article here for the best rear delt variations.


Your Shoulder Day Routine

First, let’s take a look at the beginners routine.  I have adapted the main and advanced routine to suit anyone who is new to weight training or anyone who may have not trained with the intensity that comes with HIT before.

Beginners Shoulder Workout Routine

Cardio Warm-Up

  • Your warm-up can be done on any cardio machine in the gym.
  • 5 to 10 minutes is all you need.  This should be done at a low intensity to avoid taxing the body before your weights.  Our only aim here is to get some blood flowing and to get your body feeling nice and warm.

Warm Up Those Rotator Cuffs

Unfortunately, if you keep strengthening and building your delts but pay no attention to your stabilising muscle, then injury will only be around the corner.  Before you start this shoulder workout routine it’s vitally important you give your rotator cuffs some attention.

Follow the routine outlined in the video below.

Exercise 1 – Dumbbell Lateral Raises

Warmup Set 1 – 12 reps (light to moderate weight)

  • This should be fairly easy and you should be able to get around 18 to 20 reps if you carried on going

Rep Tempo – Explosive Up – Pause for a split second at the top – Control down for 3 to 4 seconds

Rest for 1 minute

Warmup Set 2 – 12 reps (moderate to heavy)

  • Increase the weight from your first work set. You should be able to get around 15 reps if you carried on going
  • If you fail before or even on the 12th rep, you have gone to heavy.

Rep Tempo – Explosive Up – Pause for a split second at the top – Control down for 3 to 4 seconds

Rest for 1 minute and 30 seconds

All Out Work Set – 10 to 12 reps (heavy)

  • This should be a weight you can get at least 10 reps with but no more than 12 reps.
  • Take this set to positive failure only. (where you can no longer lift the weight by yourself)

Rep Tempo – Explosive Up – Pause for a split second at the top – Control down for 3 to 4 seconds

Rest for 1 minute

Exercise 2 – Standing Military Press

Please note if you have a training partner you can do the incline bench press using a barbell.

Warmup Set 1 – 12 reps (light to moderate weight)

  • This should be fairly easy and you should be able to get around 18 to 20 reps if you carried on going

Rep Tempo – Explosive Up – Control down for 3 to 4 seconds

Rest for 1 minute

Warmup Set 2 – 12 reps (moderate to heavy)

  • Increase the weight from your first work set. You should be able to get around 15 reps if you carried on going
  • If you fail before or even on the 12th rep, you have gone to heavy.

Rep Tempo – Explosive Up – Control down for 3 to 4 seconds

Rest for 1 minute and 30 seconds

All Out Work Set – 6 to 8 reps (heavy)

  • This should be a weight you can get at least 6 reps with but no more than 8 reps.
  • Take this set to positive failure only. (where you can no longer lift the weight by yourself)

Rep Tempo – Explosive Up – Control down for 3 to 4 seconds

Rest for 1 minute

Exercise 3 – Reverse Rear Delt Flyes

Warmup Set 1 – 12 reps (light to moderate)

  • You should be able to get around 18 reps if you carried on going
  • If you fail before or even on the 12th rep, you have gone to heavy.

Rep TempoPowerfull up – Control back for 2 to 3 seconds

Warmup Set 2 – 12 reps (moderate to heavy)

  • Increase the weight from your first work set. You should be able to get around 15 reps if you carried on going
  • If you fail before or even on the 12th rep, you have gone to heavy.

Rest for 1 minute and 30 seconds

All Out Work Set – 10 to 12 reps (heavy)

  • This should be a weight you can get at least 10 reps with but no more than 12 reps.

Advanced Technique –3 x rest/pause

  • Rest for 10 seconds between each rest/pause set
  • Repeat this a further 2 times.

Rep TempoPowerfull up – Control back for 2 to 3 seconds

Exercise 3 – Cable Lateral Raises

Warmup Set 1 – 12 reps (moderate to heavy)

  • You should be able to get around 15 reps if you carried on going
  • If you fail before or even on the 12th rep, you have gone to heavy.

Rep TempoExplosive Up – Pause for a split second at the top – Control down for 3 to 4 seconds

Rest for 1 minute and 30 seconds

All Out Work Set – 10 to 12 reps (heavy)

  • This should be a weight you can get at least 10 reps with but no more than 12 reps.

Advanced Technique –3 x drop set (Cables are great for doing drop sets on due to being able to change the weight so quickly)

  • Once you hit positive failure on your first set, drop the weight one or two plates and push as many reps out as you can to failure again.
  • Repeat this a further 2 times.

Rep TempoExplosive Up – Pause for a split second at the top – Control down for 3 to 4 seconds

Advanced Routine

Here is the advanced routine.  The only difference to the beginner routine is you will be using advanced techniques on every single work set.  If you have a training partner you can go even further with this routine and add in things like forced reps and extra negatives.

Exercise 1 – Dumbbell Lateral Raises

Warmup Set 1 – 12 reps (light to moderate weight)

  • This should be fairly easy and you should be able to get around 18 to 20 reps if you carried on going

Rep Tempo – Explosive Up – Pause for a split second at the top – Control down for 3 to 4 seconds

Rest for 1 minute

Warmup Set 2 – 12 reps (moderate to heavy)

  • Increase the weight from your first work set. You should be able to get around 15 reps if you carried on going
  • If you fail before or even on the 12th rep, you have gone to heavy.

Rep Tempo – Explosive Up – Pause for a split second at the top – Control down for 3 to 4 seconds

Rest for 1 minute and 30 seconds

All Out Work Set – 10 to 12 reps (heavy)

  • This should be a weight you can get at least 10 reps with but no more than 12 reps.
  • Take this set to positive failure only. (where you can no longer lift the weight by yourself)

Advanced Technique –3 x Rest/Pause with partial reps

  • Once you hit positive failure (where you can no longer do a full rep on your own) carry on doing as many partial reps as you can at the bottom of the movement.
  • Once you can no longer lift the weight, rest for 10 to 15 seconds and go again to positive failure followed by as many partials as you can do.
  • Repeat another 2 times.  You may find by the end you are only able to push out one or two more full reps.  This is fine.

Rep Tempo – Explosive Up – Pause for a split second at the top – Control down for 3 to 4 seconds

Rest for 1 minute

Exercise 2 – Standing Military Press

Please note if you have a training partner you can do the incline bench press using a barbell.

Warmup Set 1 – 12 reps (light to moderate weight)

  • This should be fairly easy and you should be able to get around 18 to 20 reps if you carried on going

Rep Tempo – Explosive Up – Control down for 3 to 4 seconds

Rest for 1 minute

Warmup Set 2 – 12 reps (moderate to heavy)

  • Increase the weight from your first work set. You should be able to get around 15 reps if you carried on going
  • If you fail before or even on the 12th rep, you have gone to heavy.

Rep Tempo – Explosive Up – Control down for 3 to 4 seconds

Rest for 1 minute and 30 seconds

All Out Work Set – 6 to 8 reps (heavy)

  • This should be a weight you can get at least 6 reps with but no more than 8 reps.
  • Take this set to positive failure only. (where you can no longer lift the weight by yourself)

Advanced Technique –3 x Rest/Pause with partial reps

  • Once you hit positive failure (where you can no longer do a full rep on your own) carry on doing as many partial reps as you can at the bottom of the movement.
  • Once you can no longer lift the weight, rest for 10 to 15 seconds and go again to positive failure followed by as many partials as you can do.
  • Repeat another 2 times.  You may find by the end you are only able to push out one or two more full reps.  This is fine.

Rep Tempo – Explosive Up – Control down for 3 to 4 seconds

Rest for 1 minute

Exercise 3 – Reverse Rear Delt Flyes

Warmup Set 1 – 12 reps (light to moderate)

  • You should be able to get around 18 reps if you carried on going
  • If you fail before or even on the 12th rep, you have gone to heavy.

Rep TempoPowerfull up – Control back for 2 to 3 seconds

Warmup Set 2 – 12 reps (moderate to heavy)

  • Increase the weight from your first work set. You should be able to get around 15 reps if you carried on going
  • If you fail before or even on the 12th rep, you have gone to heavy.

Rest for 1 minute and 30 seconds

All Out Work Set – 10 to 12 reps (heavy)

  • This should be a weight you can get at least 10 reps with but no more than 12 reps.

Advanced Technique –3 x rest/pause

  • Rest for 10 seconds between each rest/pause set
  • Repeat this a further 2 times.

Rep TempoPowerfull up – Control back for 2 to 3 seconds

Exercise 3 – Cable Lateral Raises

Warmup Set 1 – 12 reps (moderate to heavy)

  • You should be able to get around 15 reps if you carried on going
  • If you fail before or even on the 12th rep, you have gone to heavy.

Rep TempoExplosive Up – Pause for a split second at the top – Control down for 3 to 4 seconds

Rest for 1 minute and 30 seconds

All Out Work Set – 10 to 12 reps (heavy)

  • This should be a weight you can get at least 10 reps with but no more than 12 reps.

Advanced Technique –3 x drop set (Cables are great for doing drop sets on due to being able to change the weight so quickly)

  • Once you hit positive failure on your first set, drop the weight one or two plates and push as many reps out as you can to failure again.
  • Repeat this a further 2 times.

Rep TempoExplosive Up – Pause for a split second at the top – Control down for 3 to 4 seconds


How To Track Your Progress

It’s vitally important that you track your progress when using this routine.  In order for muscle growth to occur, there has to be progressive overload.  Let’s check out the rules for tracking your progress.

  1. Only track the progress of the reps you do by yourself in each set.  Do not worry about using the reps performed as part of the advanced techniques.  These are simply used to create additional overload.
  2. Once you can reach the target set out for your work set of each exercise, you then must make sure you move the weight up in your next session the following week.
  3. Make sure you only move the weight up by the smallest increment possible.  If you try to jump the weights up to quickly your reps will suffer.

What Is The Length Of This Routine

Due to the taxing nature of this type of training, I would train like this for 6 weeks, followed by a deloading week where you will still follow the same routine but drop your weights around 20 to 25% making sure no sets go to failure.

Now perform the routine for another 6 weeks, but make a few small changes,  This could be rep ranges, bringing in a new exercise or keeping everything the same and just change the exercise order.

Finally, have a full week off weight training.  You can then either go back to this routine again or follow a new workout.

Nutrition And Rest Should be Priority

In order to get the most of the best shoulder workout routine, huge importance should be placed on nutrition and recovery.

You must make sure you are consuming enough high-quality protein and carbs and getting plenty of sleep at night.  If you neglect this side of things, when doing HIT, you will eventually suffer from overtraining.

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Best shoulder workout routine

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